Foxy the Milk Cow

Foxy moves slowly, lumbers really, toward my bucket of pellets. She shivers a little while I put the halter over her nose, then follows me to the fence. I tie the lead rope, then give her the bucket so she has something to think about while I reach under her udder to warm my hands and relieve her bag.

At 6-years-old, this Jersey-Guernsey cross expects gentle handling. She thinks she is a princess.

Her world was rocked last week when she arrived at my ranch. Princesses don’t live here.

Her arrival was the culmination of bad timing all around.

When Foxy calved, her owner, Mike, was distracted by frigid-weather calving. Foxy’s calf froze.

Then Mike’s family had a health crisis.

Tending to a milk cow while the rest of the ranch and his family waited was not in Mike’s best interest.

So when Mike called to see if I knew anyone who would like to buy a milk cow, I was glad to take care of Foxy while he took care of his family. After all, they helped me with my barn roof last fall and did more than their share at our Christmas Dinner.

I told Mike: “I’ll put an ad on Craigslist and milk her until someone buys her.”

Mike handed me a couple of bags of pellets, a tube of Corona cream, some chlorhexidine and some teat wipes, waved and gunned his truck and trailer so he wouldn’t get stuck in my snowy driveway.

While I heal up Foxy’s teats, I enjoy my own personal hand spa treatment.

And workout program. I haven’t milked a cow since last summer, but since Foxy arrived, I’m ready to arm wrestle again. I might even win my age class.

When I mentioned my latest project to a friend, his immediate response was a single question: Do you know the difference between prison and milking a cow?

No, I didn’t.

In prison, you don’t have to milk a cow.

I think I better target a different demographic to find Foxy’s lifetime home.

I like milking.

At – 20 degrees, my hands stay warm, even after I pick ice cubes from the ends of her teats.

While Foxy enjoys her pellets, I enjoy the rhythm of milk hitting the bucket. It sends my mind to ideas I don’t have a chance to consider otherwise.

I watch the snowbirds bebop on the snow, spy the barn cats shyly slink closer to steal a squirt of Foxy juice, listen to the horses at the hay manger and feel my eyebrows frost over.

And Foxy gives a lot of cream.

My first milk cow, Helga, was a feisty hell-raiser who thought her horns ruled the universe. She gave about 25 percent cream, well worth tolerating her snorting and kicking. My current, far more docile, cow, Maija, will give about 30 percent cream as soon as she calves. Foxy’s first gallon of milk was so thick and rich, it took 18 hours to separate. More than half of the jar filled with cream, just waiting to become delectable ice cream and coffee enhancer.

I better plan to wear my 8-pound, winter survival snow boots until at least May, just to work off all of that deliciousness.

I’ll freeze what I don’t drink straight from the jar for my soon-to-come orphan lambs. Maybe this year, my bum lambs will be as fat as the lambs who have mothers.

Meanwhile, Maija is bagging up. I hope I sell Foxy before Maija calves and I have two cows to milk.

That might feel like prison.

Lisa Schmidt